Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works

What is Smoke Detector Verification?

Fire alarm verification is skepticism. When a verified smoke detector senses smoke, the panel wants to make sure, so the panel resets the smoke detector. If the smoke detector senses smoke almost right away, the panel then considers that there really is smoke and sounds the alarm.

Popcorn being prepared can send a breif wif of smoke, which sets off the smoke detector. Verification in a fire alarm system makes sure the smoke is lasting more than a few short seconds before sounding the alarms.
Preparing popcorn sometimes produces brief smoke. Being skeptical, a fire alarm system verifies that smoke is long lasting before sounding the alarms.

By Douglas Krantz

Because smoke comes in so many varieties, smoke detectors have to be sensitive to anything that even looks like smoke. Not only that, but smoke detectors aren't smart; they really can't differentiate between smoke from a dangerous fire and dust that looks like smoke, steam that looks like smoke, or sometimes even Cajun cooking that looks like smoke.

One method of reducing false alarms is the use of verification. Without verification, a short-term detection of smoke from overcooked popcorn down the hall or soldering in the next room that quickly goes away will set off the alarms.

Verification gets past this by resetting the smoke detector after the first detection of smoke, and then, a short time later, checking for the smoke again.

It's the second detection of smoke, during this verification time, that sets off the alarms.


Another way of describing verification is that verification is the fire alarm panel's way of being skeptical.

A smoke detector panics and says "I smell smoke!"

Being skeptical that there really is smoke, the fire alarm panel says "Are you sure? Reset yourself and in 30 seconds try looking for the smoke".

For a total of 90 seconds from the first indication of smoke, the panel waits in a standby condition. If, during that standby, the smoke detector doesn't say it smells smoke, without going into alarm the panel returns to a normal condition.

Of course, if during that 90 seconds of standby, that smoke detector or even another smoke detector smells smoke, the fire alarm panel assumes there really is smoke because smoke has been detected twice, and the panel sounds the alarm.

So, using the skepticism of verification, the fire panel checks twice for smoke and can avoid many of the false alarms from a single, short-term, detection of smoke.
Life Safety
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